THE ASTEROID PIRATES
BY
JOHN DUNAJ


Chapter 4


After an initial blast from the suits' reaction jets, the Patrolmen drifted toward the asteroid and the three ships moored there. Each man was aware that at any moment they could be spotted.

When they were within one hundred yards of the nearest ship, Comet gestured for the group to close in. Rusty and Sparks pressed their helmets to his and he told them what they had to do. The physical contact of the helmets transmitted their speech without using radios, though the sound was muffled.

 2002 John Dunaj
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"I will enter this ship through the airlock and disable the rocket motor ignition circuits," Comet said. "That way the pirates will not have a way to escape. Rusty, you and Sparks do the same to the other two ships. When you are finished enter the station and stun anyone you find. We need everyone alive to answer questions."

Using the manual airlock controls, they opened the airlock door and Commander Comet entered. Waiting for the airlock to cycle was nerve-racking. What if the ship was not unmanned? No time to worry as the telltales went green and the hatch opened.

Jumping into the control room, the Commander lowered his ray gun and took a deep breath. The ship was unmanned! Working quickly, Comet disabled the rocket ignition circuits and proceeded toward the passageway into the core of the asteroid.

Quickly stripping off the cumbersome spacesuit, Comet slowly opened the hatch at the end of the passageway. The first whiff of air from the main passage told the Commander that his theory of what cargo containers would be taken was correct. The air was stale, indicating that these pirates needed the hydroponics supplies they stole to replenish the air of their base.

As Comet was about to enter the passageway, he heard voices coming his way!

"He's not going to like us blasting that liner." said one of the pirates.

"Remember, he is only in charge till the Committee says otherwise," the other pirate said.

"If he scares you so much, I'll tell him. I'm not impressed by his reputation," the first said in disgust."

When they had passed, Comet slipped into the passageway. The two pirates were going to meet their leader. A leader that, at least one of them thought, should not be in charge.

Comet was about to follow the men when he heard a muffled cry of alarm coming from down the other end of the passageway. Quickly heading that way,he came to a hatch labeled STORAGE. "Stay away! Stay away you monster!" came from inside.

"Help me. Help mm..." someone cried and then silence.

Quickly, Comet opened the hatch and was surprised to see Omniac standing near the body of one of the pirates!

"What happened Omniac?" Comet asked.

"This individual opened my shipping container and then refused to remain quiet. I had to render him unconscious so as to prevent his spreading an alarm," explained Omniac.

 2002 John Dunaj
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"Good work Omniac!" Comet said. "Omniac, Rusty and Sparks will be heading this way after they disable the other two pirate spacecraft. Join them and go to the control room. I'm heading there now. "

"Order understood Commander." said Omniac.

Moving quickly down the passageway, Comet spotted the two men going into a room off the main passageway. With his raygun at the ready, Comet waited outside of the partially closed hatch. What he heard made him raise his eyebrows in amazement. Only one man had such evil in his voice and he was in prison on Earth!

"You fools! Did I not tell you to only slightly damage the liner? What were you thinking about?" the leader of the pirates screamed.

"We were able to get what we needed and also get some profit from the salvage. Now that we know that the crystals work, not even the Rocket Patrol can stop us from being where we should be ... controlling the entire solar system!" said the pirate, with pride in his voice.

"Let me guess, the idea was yours to totally disable the liner?"

"Yes it was!" the pirate said. "We have done things your way, till now..."

"...till now?" repeated the leader with an edge of amusement in his voice.

Turning his back on the insubordinate underling, the leader slowly walked away.

The rebellious pirate smiled and turned to his companion and said, "See, it's just as I told you. From now on, I'll be in charge and ...." The pirate's smile was replaced with fear. He could not take his eyes off the the barrel of the disrupter aimed at him.

"You fail to understand a simple fact," said the leader in a very calm voice. "I give the orders and you follow the orders. I do not tolerate any disobedience."

With that the leader squeezed the firing stud on the disrupter and a bolt of energy flashed from the pistol to its target. He was dead before he hit the floor and the other pirate looked wide eyed, first at the body and then at the disrupter.

Overhearing all the conversation and then hearing the discharge of a disrupter galvanized Comet into action. Rushing into the room, he came face to face with his greatest enemy, Dr. Sinister!

"Comet!" exclaimed Dr. Sinister. "My spies told me you were on leave."

"You really shouldn't believe everything people tell you, Doctor. Now if you would be so kind as to drop the disrupter ... slowly." said Commander Comet watching every move Sinster made.

The heavy disrupter hit the floor with a thud and Dr. Sinister slowly straightened up and raised his hands. His eyes narrowed as he stared at Comet. There was hate in his eyes.

"I don't know how you got of prison, Sinister, but next time I'll see that they throw away the key!" Comet said.

At first, Dr. Sinister just stood there, then a slight smile appeared on his face and he started to silently laugh. The laughter grew louder and louder.

"You really believe you have me, don't you Comet?" mocked Dr. Sinister.

Just then Rusty, Sparks and Omniac burst into the room. All it took was a moment of being distracted by their entrance for Dr. Sinister to make an escape into a closet.

Rushing toward the closet, Comet found the door locked. He vaporized the lock with his blaster and opened the door. Dr. Sinister was not there!

Turning to the pirate still in the room, Comet asked "Where does that closet lead?"

"I didn't even know it was there," the pirate said.

It was then that Comet realized that this pirate was wearing the uniform of the People's Republic of Ganymede. "So they are behind it," he said.

"We stunned the rest of the den of thieves, Sir. There are only ten of them." Rusty said.

"They were all getting something to eat when we gave them a nightcap ... Patrol style." Sparks said with a big smile on his face.

Suddenly Omniac stiffened. "Commander! I detect a surge in the power flow."

Before Comet could ask what that meant, a loudspeaker on the desk came alive with the voice of Dr.Sinister.

"You are the only worthy advisory I've ever had but you have been a thorn in my side for the last time. Good bye, Comet. I will not be seeing you again." Dr. Sinister's laughter echoed from the loudspeaker.

"It's a bomb, isn't it Omniac?" snapped Comet.

"Yes, Commander and it cannot be stopped. The base will explode in ..... ten minutes four seconds."

"Rusty, Sparks and you, pirate. Get everyone into a spacesuit and get ready to make a quick exit," Comet ordered.

"Omniac, record everything in this office. I'm going to call Princess Liana to bring the ship." stated the Commander.

A little over eight precious minutes had elapsed since Dr. Sinister's message and all of the base was now in spacesuits and awaited the spaceship piloted by Princess Liana.

"You men, listen up." barked Commander Comet. "In about two minutes a bomb will destroy this base. You will enter the cargo hold of the approaching ship. By rights I should let you stay here for what was done to the space liner. Don't do anything to make me regret my decision to save your worthless hides."

"Be at your location in thirty seconds." announced Liana as she used all of her piloting skills to speed to the asteroid.

"Princess, open the cargo hatch and prepare for Omniac to take over the controls once everyone is aboard." Comet replied.

"Sir, why have Omniac take the controls?" asked Rusty.

"We need to put as much distance between us and this asteroid before it explodes and only Omniac can pilot a ship rapidly through these asteroids. Don't worry Rusty, Omniac isn't going to replace you as copilot," Comet said with a smile.

The Princess opened the cargo hatch and slowed the ship as it approached the asteroid. Matching orbits with the flying rock, she watched as the pirates were led into the cargo bay. With a signal from Commander Comet, she closed the cargo hatch and waited for the airlock to cycle.

When the airlock telltale had turned green, the hatch opened and Comet and crew took their stations with Omniac at the controls.

Omniac's arms moved over the controls in rapid sequence. The ships motors roared at full throttle and everyone was pushed back in their chairs as the ship raced away from the doomed asteroid.

"Detonation in approximately twenty seconds." intoned Omniac.

A quick firing of the control jets and then retro fire from the main engine and the ship came to rest behind another asteroid.

"Dan?"

"Don't worry, Liana. This asteroid will protect us from the flying debris," Comet said with confidence. "I hope." he said under his breath.

It was the longest twenty seconds in history. Time enough for a person to rethink their life and each of them in that control cabin did and realized that they would not chang anything.

 2002 John Dunaj
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Suddenly, the asteroids around their ship lit up and smaller asteroids sped rapidly around the asteroid they were using as a shield. The pirate base was no more!

* * *

Admiral Ryerson looked up from the report he'd been reading.

"Dan, you and your crew were very lucky to get out alive."

"Yes Admiral, I know. What about the prisoners?" Commander Comet asked.

"The prisoners you captured are asking for political asylum and are willing to tell everything. Dan, the People's Republic of Ganymede wanted to control the solar system so badly that they were willing to work with Doctor Sinister! Heads will roll before all of this is over," Ryerson intoned. "Finding out that some of the Solar League were in the pay of the Ganymedes, and that they had Sinister released .... it boggles the mind."

"We never did find out how Dr. Sinister could coordinate the ray cannon fire. I feel the mission was a failure Admiral," Comet said with bitterness in his voice.

"No Dan, you didn't fail. Even Sinister didn't know how the crystals they used worked."

"Crystals, Admiral?"

"Seems some asteroid miner found them and Dr. Sinister discovered how to use them but that is all over now."

"Is it Sir? Anything with Dr. Sinister ..." Commander Comet asked.

"The crystals were installed on those ships that were destroyed when the base blew up. The prisoners told us that Sinister was afraid to analyze the crystals as it might destroy how they work. We won this round Dan. The crystals were destroyed, a nest of political corruption was uncovered and Dr. Sinister is dead."

"No Sir! I don't believe that Sinister is dead. We thought we destroyed him before and he came back. Sorry Admiral, we will hear of Dr. Sinister in the future," Comet said, wondering when Dr. Sinister would cross the path of the Rocket Patrol again.

"I do have a bit a good news for one of your crew, Dan."

"Sir?"

"Seeing that Omniac assisted in the capture and destruction of a pirate base as well as piloting your crew to safety, the Solar League has made Omniac a full member of the Rocket Patrol." said a smiling Admiral Ryerson.

"... and he is permanently assigned to your command, Dan. And one more thing."

"Yes Sir?"

"You and your crew are to take some leave. The Antares will be ready when you return. Have a good time Dan. You and your crew have earned it!"



The End

2002 John Dunaj



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All text, illustrations, photographs and design are 2001-2002 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.